Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Top Ten Signs You’re Not the Best Cook on the Block

I can’t remember anything I’ve ever prepared in the kitchen that’s eaten a hole through my skillet (not all the way through anyway), and I rarely send friends and family members to the hospital. Okay, so I’m not the best cook on the block. But it’s not like my cooking has ever set off Geiger counters in my neighborhood or anything. Maybe there’s been some minor glowing, but still, I don’t think there have ever been more than trace amounts of radioactivity.
If you’d like my personal take on the state of neighborhood affairs that should clue folks in to the fact that they’re not the best chefs on their block, here are my top ten:

10. Your family compliments you on your lovely cheesy potato side dish—but they keep pointing at your ham.
9. You give the dog your pot roast leftovers and he buries them in the neighbor’s back yard.
8. You call the kids to come to dinner and they beg you to let them do their homework and clean their rooms instead.
7. Some joker in your family puts one of those “Bio-hazard” signs on your garbage can.
6. You make meatloaf and banana bread for dinner, but no one can tell which is which—even after tasting them.
5. You accidentally drop your homemade bread while getting it out of the oven and you have to go down to the basement to retrieve it.
4. Every time you barbecue, one of your neighbors calls the fire department.
3. You make “Macaroni Surprise” but the surprise is that you have to use a sandblaster and a touch of Drano to get it out of the dish.
2. You buy Pepto-Bismol by the drum.
1. You accidentally leave your special frozen dessert on the table overnight, but it’s still solid the next morning—and you’re pretty sure you heard it singing in the night.

Boy, am I glad my Heavenly Father understands creating life and giving purpose so infinitely more than I understand creating edible cuisine and giving it flavor. He has taken great care to put each of us together. Psalm 139:15 says, “You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” (The Message) Bit by bit, ingredient by ingredient, the Lord followed his divine recipe for each one of us. He breathed into us the very breath of life and gave us great value by giving us his love.

James 1:18 says “God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made.” (NCV) What an honor! We are his focus in his most delightful presentation.

It’s his love that gives us importance. He’s the one who makes our lives significant. And praise God, he makes life something to savor—without even the slightest need for Drano!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Learning to Let Go…Again

It was probably the hardest chapter to write of any book I've ever written. I don't even have to think about the chapter number. It was chapter 25. The book? WHO PUT THE CAT IN THE FRIDGE. Sounds harmless enough, doesn't it (well, except for the cat)? But when I was writing the book and I got to chapter 25, I would type for awhile, then dry the tears off my keyboard. I practically had to wring the thing out. I even had to go find something else to do for awhile. Then I would come back to the computer composed, only to find myself sobbing again within ten minutes. Off I'd go again to do something mindless until I could pull myself together again. Back to the computer, up from the computer, back to the computer…I think that's the most exercise I've ever gotten while writing.

Chapter 25 in WHO PUT THE CAT IN THE FRIDGE became the spot I tangibly dealt with my oldest son going off to college. I think I ripped my heart out and pasted it on the pages. One minute I was looking into the eyes of the adored baby I cradled in my arms, the next minute I was cricking my neck to look up at the six-foot baby who was getting ready to head off to college.

Under the "No Regrets" subhead in that chapter, I wrote about something my godly friend, Janet Bridgeforth, told me. "She told me it's a wondrous blessing to get to this point in your children's lives and to be able to look back on the child-rearing years with no regrets. Not because we haven't done anything wrong, but because nothing has been left unresolved. Nothing left unsaid. Nothing left unconfessed. Nothing left unforgiven. We keep our finger in Proverbs around this time of life, don't we? 'Point your kids in the right direction--when they're old they won't be lost (Proverbs 22:6 MSG)."

I've had to pull out chapter 25 again. My second born son will be graduating high school. He'll be turning 18 tomorrow. I am so proud of Jordan--his sharpness, humor, talents, abilities, his love for righteousness--his love for Christ. I've adored this boy from second one. He has been such a blessed and special gift to me. Here I go, needing to wring out my keyboard again.

These are the days I want to make sure once again that nothing has been left unresolved, unsaid, unconfessed, unforgiven. I value Jordan and I value my relationship with him too much for that. I think he might laugh at the idea that anything on earth could have gone "unsaid." I'm sure you'll be shocked to know that I've said so much I think I might be getting on his nerves.

To the sweet readers who have shared so many laughs with me through books, magazines, columns and devos, I know this entry is a tad on the serious side--not my usual fare. But I wanted to encourage you, my friends, that if there's anything unresolved with family, friends, enemies--whoever--to find resolution. Make sure you've done everything you can on your side of the relationship. You're not responsible for the other person's response. Only yours. Once you know you've made it right on your side, you can find yourself in that blessed place of "no regrets." There's such peace there.

So I'm taking this opportunity to say one thing I haven't really been able to say to Jordan--only because I can't say it without bawling my head off. And you know how teenage guys just love that. I haven't been able to adequately express to him how desperately I'm going to miss him. Heart on the page again. I love you so much, Jordan.

But as he heads off to college in a few months, I know he "won’t be lost" as Proverbs 22:6 puts it in The Message. He has his head on straight and his focus on Jesus. What a beautiful place of "no regrets" he's helped build for his mom. Praise the Lord for the man of God he is making my Jordan.

And in other issues, at least there's the possibility of slimming down in this season of life. Up from the computer, back to the computer,….

Saturday, March 18, 2006

There's Too Much Blood in My Caffeine System

I just recently found a new appreciation for the beauty of the chocolate and coffee blend. Two beautiful caffeine sources in one giant mug! I had too many the other day and I don't think my top eyelids touched the bottom lids for about six straight hours.

I know caffeine isn't really good for you, but I still have a hard time figuring why I should waste space on little old things like corpusles and such here in my caffeine system. Shouldn't we get those little suckers out of the way and make room for more mocha latte?

Okay, okay. I guess totally replacing a blood system for a caffeine system might not be the healthiest idea I've had. In fact, it's pretty amazing how many things I can get completely backwards when I'm deciding what's good for me.

Spiritually, for instance, I can convince myself that doing things my own way is what brings happiness. But in fact, trying to find direction on my own and to do things my way doesn't take me in the right direction at all. Jeremiah 10:23 says, "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." Guide my own life in the right direction? Not happening! It's just not in me. I need the God of the universe to direct my steps. He energizes my walk--and he's unspeakably, infinitely better than anything hot and mocha.

The Lord God is the only way to a truly healthy life in every way that counts!

Of course, a little de-caff probably wouldn't hurt either.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Let’s Keep Growing

I have a friend who is peeking today. She’s expecting and it’s ultrasound time. I told her it would be an easy call. If she sees a pink bow on the little head, it’s a girl. If she sees a remote in the little hand, it’s a boy. Of course, my husband might say that you can tell it’s a girl if there’s a tiny credit card in one hand, a can of hair spray in the other, and a ring of chocolate around the little lips.

Actually, as a mom, I remember that the best part of taking a peek was seeing for myself that all was well with the wee one yet to be born. It was always so reassuring and so amazing to see how the baby was growing and developing.

We’re called to be constantly growing and developing spiritually, too. In Acts 2 we’re told about the first century church. “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church…They joined with other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…They worshiped together…” (NLT) It’s interesting to me that the same things that were encouraged for growth at the very first—teaching, fellowship and worship—are still important factors in growth today. We need to stay plugged in to a local church body, joining with other believers, working to advance the Kingdom.

People often think of plugging into a church when they have their babies. It’s a wonderful thing to recognize our responsibility to raise up the next generation to love Jesus. But we don’t start needing the church at the point of parenthood. With or without kids, we’re instructed to stay faithfully connected to other believers. Hebrews 10:25 says, “You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other….” (NKJV)

You can find great teaching, fellowship and corporate worship in the local church, as well as support from fellow Christians and a place to roll up your sleeves and get involved in the lives of people and in your own ministry. God has given each of us a gift of service that we need to be using in the church. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NLT)

Let’s use our spiritual gifts to help the church—let’s keep growing. And while we're growing, we might as well consider using our ultrasounds to find out if we need to buy batteries or chocolate.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Matching Up

I've been pondering some of the big issues of life this week. Like when is it really okay to wear white shoes? Does the "no white before Labor Day" law apply to purses, too? Where does light beige fit in? And what do we do now that they have a color called "Winter White"? Big issues.

Okay, I'm kidding. I know shoe color is not really the life or death issue of the year. If I wear the wrong color shoes too early in the year, it's not like it'll bring on the next season before it's ready. And the flowers bloom whether I pull out the pastel shoes or not. But I have to tell you, it's a pretty good feeling when I know I'm wearing an outfit that matches up with the season. I admit I would be some kind of uncomfortable if I had to don my snow boots and wool scarf on Labor Day. I would be uncomfortable and I would look pretty goofy.

It's even more uncomfortable when we say we know God in the most intimate way, yet don't do what he says. Talk about goofy. First John 2:3-6 says, "Here's how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments. If someone claims, 'I know him well!' but doesn't keep his commandments, he's obviously a liar. His life doesn't match his words. But the one who keeps God's word is the person in whom we see God's mature love. This is the only way to be sure we're in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived." (The Message)

If I ever do make the goofy decision to wear snow boots on Labor Day, it's not likely to bring on a premature winter. Shoes don't really make the season. And obedience doesn't make a follower of God. But a follower of God will no doubt obey or he's not truly a follower. Truly knowing him changes the way we live. Verse 29 in that same chapter in 1 John says, "Once you're convinced that he is right and righteous, you'll recognize that all who practice righteousness are God's true children." (The Message)

Let's let our obedience be evidence that we know him and love him. It's a good feeling to let your obedience match up with your heart's condition--in spring, summer, fall or winter white.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Totally Dependent

I SO depend on the gal who does my hair. You gentlemen might not understand this, but there’s a certain trust between a woman and her hair dresser. I feel especially blessed that the girl who does my hair (her name is Peanuts...really) is also a special and dear friend. Now that's sweet. Every time I go in to see Peanuts at her shop, I put my hair in her hands (incidentally, in return, she puts her hands in my hair).

I knew it was time to go in this week. Having grayed early in life, I have to be careful not to get that parfait look. White layer, chocolate layer looks good in a dessert, but not on a head. When I glance in the mirror and notice a white skunk stripe down the center, I know it’s past time. The Cruela Devile look is just not for me.

It’s even worse when I’m not the only one who notices. I hate it when a tall person looks down at the top of my head (being five-foot-zero has definite hair disadvantages), and says in a bullhorn voice, “Do not look directly into the roots—corneal damage may occur!” It’s one thing for people to be blinded by my beauty (clearing throat here), but this is something entirely different.

So I went in a few days ago for my hair fix. Being chemically dependent on hair products doesn’t necessarily need an intervention, by the way. Anyway, it was practically magic. In just an hour or so, voila! I was transformed! No corneal damage, no “Touched by an Angel” kind of scalp-glow happening—just good, hair. Did I mention I love my hair gal?

While I’m confessing my dependence, let me just say that I have another one that’s eternally more significant. I’m depending on my Heavenly Father for so much more than good hair. He is my very life. Isaiah 26:3-5 says, “People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on GOD and keep at it because in the LORD GOD you have a sure thing.”

Hair colors may come and go (I’m especially sure about the going part), but our God is a sure thing—ever steady—ever dependable. I can trust him with all of me, not just my hair. Relying on him for everything I need in life provides a rest, a peace and an unexplainable joy that doesn’t have anything to do with circumstances (including skunk hair). It’s better than magic! My dependence on the Lord has a powerful way of transforming my life.

And to think it all happens without harsh chemicals.